Problematizers: the Series

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided on a name for my TUMBLR experiments: Problematizers. Hopefully soon, I can write more here about why I picked that name. The post will involve a discussion of Foucault and his idea of problematization + my musings on a super hero named “The Problematizer.” 

I’ve spent all afternoon experimenting with Pixelmator to create a poster featuring some of my images + texts so far. Here it is:


A Dis/infographic: The Best and Worst Types of Tweets

If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest, you might be familiar with infographics; people love pinning and repinning them. An infographic or information graphic takes complex information and date and organizes and represents it in an easy-to-read graphic or set of graphics. As Reif Larsen writes in their “This Chart is a Lonely Hunter: The Narrative Eros of the Infographic,” infographics are everywhere:

our media are now saturated with such infographics, both on-and off-line, as a host of publications such as The New YorkTimesGoodTheGuardianWiredTime, The Economist, The Believer, and The Wall Street Journal all regularly depend on data visualizations to provide their readers with that on-the-spot, quasi-highbrow sociological analysis.

And many of the infographics created in these publications are pinned and repinned on Pinterest. Many people (myself included) are skeptical of the value and usefulness of these infographics. What exactly do they tell us about anything? Do they just look pretty on our computer or iPad or iPhone? I suspect that’s why they get pinned so much on Pinterest, which is often lauded for how “pretty” it is.

A well done infographic, one that allows us to make connections and understand complex data can be a wonderful thing. But what about the bad or fluffy ones? What purpose do they serve? And why do people want to pin them so often?

Lots of folks are discussing the limits and benefits of infographics. On my Pinterest board, Troubling Infographics, I’ve slowly been gathering articles about infographics and examples of (mostly bad) infographics. I’ve also added my own commentary, usually in the form of critical questions, to these infographics. After studying an infographic about twitter yesterday, I’ve decided that it was time to create my own infographic, or what I’m tentatively calling a dis/infographic, that troubles (challenges, questions, wonders about) the data on the graphic and how it is mis/represented. To create this dis/infographic, I’m putting my limited Pixelmator skills to the test.

Around 2 or so hours later…

Ugh. It’s a few hours since I began working on this dis/infographic, and I’ve finally finished. Let’s just say that I’m not good friends with Pixelmator right now. I’m happy that I experimented with making it though. I can’t decide if I want to try it again or not? Is it too much of a time suck or a useful exercise? If I could build up my skills some more, it might be a good way to trouble graphics, etc. Hmm…still not sure. For now, here’s my dis/infographic:

And, here’s the study that the original infographic (and my troubling of it) is based on: Who Gives a Tweet?

Experimenting with Digital Stories, part 2

I’m continuing to experiment with using iMovie to create digital stories. I’m having a lot of fun and learning new techniques. While I created two videos in the early aughts with STA, he did almost all of the technical stuff on them (running the camera + editing the footage in iMovie, etc). It’s great to learn how to do it myself. Part of my feminist techagogy (Feminist pedagogies in conversation/beside online technologies) is a passionate belief in empowering/inspiring/encouraging a wide range of folks how to engage in their own digital multimedia projects for critical and creative expression. With easy to use and inexpensive tools like iMovie, lots of people who aren’t tech/media experts can create, produce and share compelling stories. There are also lots of storytelling apps for creating movies. I’ve created a Pinterest board with some that I’ve tried or want to try. 

I like using iMovie (as opposed to final cut pro) because it’s automatically built in to all macs and fairly easy to use. So far, I haven’t had that much difficulty figuring out how to import photos and video and edit them. I’ve also experimented with splitting video and audio clips and slowing down some footage. One thing that I haven’t spent that much time on is sound. iMovie seems to have some serious limitations when it comes to sound; it’s hard to get a consistent volume between clips. Even though iMovie has its limitations, I really like how it enables me, someone who is not a digital media expert (or interested in becoming one), to develop enough skills to experiment with various ways for creating, telling and troubling my stories.

Here’s my latest digital story project: Stories from the UP. I’m pretty happy with the various techniques that I tried out in the story. I’m also pleased with how I was able to use this story to trouble ideas of how stories, especially ones about family trips, can or should be told.

Technical note: I used iMovie + built-in MacBook Air microphone + Pixelmator for photo editing.

Here is the transcript from my voice-over:

Last summer, for the second year in a row, Scott, Fletcher, Rosie and I took a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was born in the Upper Peninsula, Houghton to be exact. And although I haven’t lived there since I was 4 and a half, I still consider it to be one of my most important home spaces.

We remember our trips to the UP with great fondness and nostalgia, as we look through Scott’s beautiful stylized instagram photos, but I know that even as these trips are deeply important and fulfilling, they aren’t always…fun or easy or relaxing. Bugs, over-excited yet easily-bored kids, too much togetherness, bugs, too cold water, lots of driving, did I mention bugs?, and the difficult and ongoing negotiations of 4 different, all strong, personalities living together as a family makes any trip messy…and exhausting….and a lot of work. But joyful, nonetheless.

I want to craft and share stories that reflect a more troubling understanding of our trips to the UP, that convey the joy and difficulties, our fulfillment and exhaustion.

Before the Path I like messy stories; stories that don’t always erase our conflicts, that allow us to put our sometimes contradictory experiences beside each other.

Before the Place I like reverent stories; stories that allow me to express an ongoing love for a place that grounds me, that nurtures me, that inspires me and that reminds me of who I am always in the process of becoming.

Before Characters I like character stories; stories that describe who we are, more than what we do…that expose our quirks and flaws and that represent us as human, not heroic.

Before the Action I like small stories; stories that represent our everyday experiences and that help to reflect who we are in our habits. Not stories of grand or epic adventures, but everyday events, when we’re just hanging out and where the exciting ending is not reaching the top of a high mountain, but going to have mackinac island fudge ice cream at our favorite ice cream shop, The Berry Patch.

An undisciplined experiment with digital storytelling

Almost 10 years ago, STA and I did two digital videos about the Puotinen family farm. While the films that we made in 2002/2003 weren’t technically sophisticated (we used iMovie, a built-in microphone and some low quality/old photos), I am very proud of them. Through these films, I was able to document two extremely important parts of me (both of which are now gone): our family farm, sold in 2004, and my mom, who died in 2009.

Since the time of making those films, the technology has improved a lot and it’s even easier to create your own digital stories, using photos, voice-over, and video. iMovie is easy to use and there are lots of different apps for creating stories on your smarthphone or iPad. Additionally, communities of scholars, artists, activists and educators have cultivated and are promoting the value of creating and sharing stories digitally. There are classes on digital storytelling (like the awesome class at the University of Minnesota, taught by Rachel Raimist and Walt Jacobs) and a Center for Digital Storytelling (started in the mid-1900s).

While I’ve been aware of digital storytelling for several years now, I haven’t read that much about it or tried it out myself. Until now.

A few weeks ago, I started writing and thinking a lot about discipline and my own lack of it. The general topic of discipline and being a disciplinary problem aren’t really new for me; they are a focus of this blog. But, something about my current in-between state (in-between teaching gigs, in-between academic and non-academic spaces, in-between a love of learning and being burned out from the academy and formal education), has made the topic of my own un/discipline particularly personal and compelling. After writing a few blog posts about it, I remembered the one and only report card that I still have from my elementary school years: my first grade report card. Since this report card has a lot to stay about my lack of self-discipline, it seemed a perfect object/subject for an undisciplined experiment with digital storytelling.

I loved experimenting with images of the report card, old photos, and voice-over in order to be curious about and reflect on who I was in first grade and why I struggled so much with self-discipline (whatever that means). I also liked trying out iMovie (I chose it over final cut pro), pixelmator (instead of photoshop) and a Yeti microphone. Pretty cool. I’m looking forward to experimenting even more with it in future projects; I’m already hoping to do a different version about my report card in which I put my struggle with self-discipline in the larger context of race, class and gender in 1980s North Carolina. For now, here’s my first experiment: School Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account

Student Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account from Undisciplined on Vimeo.

The Battle of the Sexes, Brady Bunch Style

Last night, STA and I live-tweeted 2 more episodes of The Brady Bunch, Season 1. Here are the tweets archived on Storify:

A Clubhouse is not a Home (6)
Kitty Karry-all is Missing (7)

Both were memorable episodes, introducing some themes that will be repeated again and again…and again throughout all five seasons. For example, the Kitty Carry-all episode is a great illustration of how easily and cruelly the kids turn on each other and how effectively they regulate and discipline each other. As I live-tweet the series, this is one theme that I’m particularly interested in tracking, especially how it relates to the particular brand of family values that the Brady’s practice and promote.

Another important theme is the repeated reference to feminism and feminist principles. “A Clubhouse is not a Home” is the first explicit reference to feminism. They mention the need for equality,


the right to fair treatment for girls/women

and the girls even protest their unequal treatment with picket signs.


Wow. I’m not sure what they’re doing with feminism in this episode (well, I think I know, but…)


I want to revisit Mimi Marinucci’s great article on the Brady Bunch, “Television, Generation X, and Third Wave Feminism: A Contextual Analysis of the Brady Bunch” in order to put their mention of feminism in this episode into the larger context of the entire series and its relationship to 1970s culture. Briefly, here’s Marinucci’s summary of the episode:

In a very early episode, the Brady girls demand equal access to the Brady boys’ clubhouse (‘‘A Clubhouse Is Not a Home’’). When Mike and the boys exclude them, Carol decides that the girls should begin building a clubhouse of their own. The point, however, is not actually to build a clubhouse, but to do such a poor job that Mike and the boys will take pity and build it for them. The scheme works, and Mike sends the girls to fetch lemonade while he and the boys get to work.

What she seems to be getting at with her description is that, even as The Brady Bunch draws upon feminist principles/slogans, it does so in a way that undercuts them. The girls will try anything to get access to their own space; they’ll spout “feminist principles” that they don’t really believe in or understand or pretend to be incompetent in order to trick the boys into doing the work for them. Do I agree with this assessment? Hmm…not sure, yet.